PhD Scholarship in Understanding the Bio-Nano Interactions of Nanomaterials, funded by ARC DECRA

The project is fully funded by an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), aiming to understand how clinically relevant nanoparticles interact with the immune system.

This project aims to improve the biological applications of nanomaterials by understanding their fundamental interactions with proteins and cells in relevant biological environments. This will create new knowledge on how humoral (antibody-mediated) immunity affects nanomaterials using cutting-edge immunoassays, bio–nano characterisation techniques, and bioinformatics. Expected outcomes of the project include an understanding of how specific antibodies modulate the protein coatings on nanomaterials, which will shed light on how immune cells interact with nanomaterials. This will lead to design principles for nanomaterial properties to improve their effectiveness in delivering drugs and gene therapies.

The candidate will be trained in the area of immunology, nanoscience and nanotechnology to learn key skills in synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials, nano–bio interactions and immunology. The PhD will further participate in established collaborations with other leading nanotechnology laboratories across multiple Institutions such as The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, The University of Melbourne, and WEHI. The scholarship is part of a high profile, interdisciplinary, discovery project being conducted in collaboration with researchers from high ranked universities and institutes.

Higher Degree by Research stipend $32,841 each year for three years.



Ideal candidate will have a Bachelor or Post Graduate degree in Applied Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Biomedical Science/Engineering, Immunology or a related field. Practical or research experience related to nanomaterials for drug/vaccine/RNA delivery will be considered favourable.   To be considered for the PhD Scholarship, applicants must hold or be currently completing: 

  • a Master by research
  • a Master by coursework with a significant research component graded as high distinction, or equivalent 
  • a Honours degree achieving first class honours
  • a 4 year bachelor degree achieving a GPA of 4 or equivalent (80% or above)

If you do not hold one of the above qualifications, you will only be considered for scholarship if you have previous publications or significant research experience.

Before applying for the Scholarship, contact Dr Yi (David) Ju and establish if your research is aligned.
Further details on RMIT University’s research strategy can be found here.
All applicants should email the following to Dr Yi (David) Ju,

  • a cover letter, this should detail the alignment of your prior research experience with the advertised project,
  • your Curriculum Vitae, and
  • a one-to-two-page research proposal. The research proposal is a key part of the application process where applicants must demonstrate the value of their research and their suitability for scholarship selection. Your proposal should be divided under the following headings:
    1. Title and topic
    2. Research questions you plan to investigate in the context of existing research/literature in the area
    3. Significance and impact of the research
    4. Methodology/research tasks required to undertake the research.
  • Bachelor (and Master) academic transcripts

Understanding the interactions of nanoengineered particles with specific cells is necessary to unlock their medicinal utility. Upon exposure to biological fluids (e.g., human blood), nanoparticles adsorb proteins, resulting in the formation of a “biomolecular corona”. This corona modulates downstream biological responses, including recognition by immune cells. Resolving the complexity of human plasma has been a major barrier to understanding the role of corona on biological response. In the project, we combine particle engineering, comprehensive proteomics analysis, and whole human blood immune assays to investigate the relationships between particle design, protein corona composition, and the association of particles with human immune cells. The candidate will be trained in the area of nanoscience and nanotechnology and immunology to learn key skills in synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials, nano-bio interactions and immunology.

Recent related publications by project leader Yi (David) Ju (* denotes corresponding author)

  • Ju, Y.; Kelly, H. G.; Dagley, L. F.; Reynaldi, A.; Schlub, T. E.; Spall, S. K.; Bell, C. A.; Cui, J.; Mitchell, A. J.; Lin, Z.; Wheatley, A. K.; Thurecht, K. J.; Davenport, M. P.; Webb, A. I.; Caruso, F.; Kent, S. J. Person-Specific Biomolecular Coronas Modulate Nanoparticle Interactions with Immune Cells in Human Blood. ACS Nano 2020, 14, 15723.
  • Ju, Y.*; Lee, W. S.; Pilkington, E. H.; Kelly, H. G.; Li, S.; Selva, K. J.; Wragg, K. M.; Subbarao, K.; Nguyen, T. H. O.; Rowntree, L. C.; Allen, L. F.; Bond, K.; Williamson, D. A.; Truong, N. P.; Plebanski, M.; Kedzierska, K.; Mahanty, S.; Chung, A. W.; Caruso, F.; Wheatley, A. K.; Juno, J. A.; Kent, S. J.* Anti-PEG Antibodies Boosted in Humans by SARS-CoV-2 Lipid Nanoparticle mRNA Vaccine. ACS Nano 2022, 16, 11769.
  • Ju, Y.; Carreño, J. M.; Simon V.; Dawson K.; Krammer F.; Kent, S. J. Impact of Anti-PEG Antibodies Induced by SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccines. Nat. Rev. Immunol. 2022,
  • Ju, Y.; Liao, H.; Richardson, J. J.; Guo, J.; Caruso, F. Nanostructured Particles Assembled from Natural Building Blocks for Advanced Therapies. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2022, 51, 4287.
  • Li, S.; Ju, Y.*; Zhou, J.; Faria, M.; Ang, C.-S.; Mitchell, A.; Zhong, Q.-Z.; Zheng, T.; Kent, S. J.*; Caruso, F.* Protein Precoating Modulates Biomolecular Coronas and Nanocapsule–Immune Cell Interactions in Human Blood. J. Mater. Chem. B 2022, 10, 7607
  • Song, J.; Ju, Y.; Amarasena, T. H.; Lin, Z.; Mettu, S.; Zhou, J.; Rahim, M. A.; Ang, C.-S.; Cortez-Jugo, C.; Kent, S. J.; Caruso, F. Influence of Poly(Ethylene Glycol) Molecular Architecture on Particle Assembly and Ex Vivo Particle–Immune Cell Interactions in Human Blood. ACS Nano 2021, 15. 10025.
  • Li, S.; Ju, Y.; Zhou, J.; Noi, K. F.; Mitchell, A. J.; Zheng, T.; Kent, S. J.; Porter, C. J. H.; Caruso, F. Quantitatively Tracking Bio–Nano Interactions of Metal–Phenolic Nanocapsules by Mass Cytometry. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2021, 13, 35494.
  • Ju, Y.; Dai, Q.; Cui, J.; Dai, Y.; Suma, T.; Richardson, J. J.; Caruso, F. Improving Targeting of Metal-Phenolic Capsules by the Presence of Protein Coronas. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2016, 8, 22914.
  • Ju, Y.; Cortez-Jugo, C.; Chen, J.; Wang, T.-Y.; Mitchell, A. J.; Tsantikos, E.; Bertleff-Zieschang, N.; Lin, Y.-W.; Song, J.; Cheng, Y.; Mettu, S.; Rahim, M. A.; Pan, S.; Yun, G.; Hibbs, M. L.; Yeo, L. Y.; Hagemeyer, C. E.; Caruso, F. Engineering of Nebulized Metal–Phenolic Capsules for Controlled Pulmonary Deposition. Adv. Sci. 2020, 7, 1902650.
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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.